Brace yourselves, ladies and gentleman—it’s Christmas soaping season already! I’m not sure how this has happened already as my brain is still patiently waiting for summer to arrive, but I’m assuming the calendar doesn’t lie, so holiday soaps, here we come. Today’s recipe is a fun one—Lumps of Coal Christmas Soap. We’ll be hand-forming these lumps like play-doh from the soap just after it’s done saponifying, so it’s totally up to you how large they are, and what shape and size they’ll end up being. You can make wee little guest soap or bigger bars—it’s totally up to you!
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The base of these bars is a riff on my All in One bars. I opted to use a combination of a few odds-and-sods liquid oils instead of olive oil, but you’re certainly welcome to use olive oil instead of my somewhat random assortment. This soap is a good one for using up coloured oils like unrefined hemp seed oil as the pigments we’ll add to the soap will cover up any colour from the carrier oils.
You can use activated charcoal, black iron oxide, or Australian black clay to turn your soap batter a characteristic dark grey hue—just use whatever you happen to have on hand! I mixed mine with a bit of olive oil to make it easier to incorporate without using an immersion blender. I recommend keeping your pigment on hand so you can mix up more pigment/oil mixture as needed—I ended up needing more than I thought I would!
For scent, I went with a blend of sweet, vanilla-like benzoin, warm cedarwood, and just the teensiest hint of smoky birch tar for a soap that smells like woodsy vanilla with just a bare hint of smoke. Be careful with your smoky essential oil! It’s easy to overdo it and end up with a bar of soap that smells like a fire pit.
After the soap saponifies for about 24 hours, we’re going to freehand form the play-dough like soft soap into lumps of coal! You can make ’em any size you want; big, bar-like lumps, or smaller coal-nubbin-y bits that would make good guest soaps and could be packed up into a wee burlap gift bag to really complete the look. Once you’ve turned all your soap into coal lumps, you can dust ’em with a dark mica. This part is optional (and definitely a bit messy, just like coal!), but adds a nice dusty, shimmery finish.
Once that’s done, all that’s left is some aging and you’ve got a great head start on your 2016 Christmas gifts with this Lumps of Coal Christmas Soap! Happy making 🙂
Lumps of Coal Christmas Soap
Calculate to a 5% superfat
Per 500g (1.1lbs) fats:
- 3 tbsp white white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
- 20g benzoin resinoid/essential oil
- 10g cedarwood essential oil
- 2 drops birch tar essential oil, cade essential oil, or vetiver essential oil
- Black pigment as needed, stirred into a bit of liquid oil: black iron oxide, activated charcoal, or Australian black clay
- Dark grey/black mica, for dusting (optional)
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in.
You’ll also want to prepare your mould, and measure out all your additives into small bowls so they’re ready when you need them.
Prepare your soap batter and bring it to trace. You can use standard cold process soap methods, or room temperature (I used room temperature and that’s what’s in the video). Once you reach relatively light trace, blend in the clay, essential oils, and your black colourant of choice. Take care to get a batter that’s just dark enough to pass for charcoal—anything darker is unnecessary and much more prone to make a mess. Pour the dark soap batter into a loaf mould and let it saponify for 24–36 hours.
After 24–36 hours of saponifying time, remove the soap loaf from its mould. It’ll still be soft and play-doh like, which is perfect! Set your work space up with a rimmed baking sheet, a knife, a mesh sieve, and a small bowl of your dark mica (if using). Use the knife to roughly hack off chunks of soap soap and form them into rough, coal-like chunks with your hands, placing them on the baking sheet when you’re done. Check out the video tutorial to see what that looks like!
Once you’ve turned the entire loaf into a bunch of coal-shaped chunks, it’s time for the optional mica dusting. Simply spoon a bit of mica into your sieve and tap it over the coal chunks, just like you were dusting a cake with some icing sugar. Gently turn the soap lumps so you can dust all sides. Shoot for less mica rather than more as this will make for a messier soap no matter what, so there’s no need to shoot for a disaster soap!
After that, all that’s left is leaving your soap to age for a minimum of three weeks before gifting it. Because of its messy nature I recommend gifting it wrapped up in something that seals (like clingfilm or a zip-top bag) to avoid unhappy gifting messes!
Even if you do end up using Australian black clay as your black pigment, you’ll still want to include the kaolin; Aussie black clay is a total odd-ball clay that will not have the same effect on soap as kaolin (and, if you use 3 tbsp of Aussie black in your soap you’ll end up with a bar of soap you could probably write with!).
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